Richmond County schools look at computer science education with eye on future jobs

Nanette Barnes, left, Richmond County’s career, technical and agricultural education director, explains the computer science education requirements of Senate Bill 108 to the board of education.

Richmond County’s schools could see a huge boost in computer science education in the near future.

Nanette Barnes, the school district’s director of career, technical and agricultural education, recommended during Tuesday’s school board committee meetings that they partner with the CSRA Regional Educational Services Agency to provide computer science endorsement.

High schoolers would be offered “Intro to Software Technology” and “Intro to Hardware Technology” in 2023-2024. Middle schoolers would be offered “Career Awareness” in sixth grade, “Foundations of Investing and Finance” in seventh grade, and a mandatory course of “Foundations of Interactive Design” in eighth grade.

Middle and high schools will no longer offer “Intro to Digital Technology” after 2022-2023.

These changes are in response to Georgia Senate Bill 108, which was signed in 2019 to ensure Georgia’s students had adequate computer literacy for the 21st century. Jobs and work readiness factored into the changes since employers in IT and similar fields are seeing high skill gaps and only around half of U.S. high schools teach computer science, according to industry experts.

Under the law, Georgia public school districts must ensure exploratory computer science is taught in all middle schools by the 2022-2023 school year, in half of high schools by 2023-2024 and in all high schools by 2024-2025.

Around half of Richmond County’s middle and high schools currently teach computer science. Middle schools with courses include Belair, Glenn Hills, Hornsby, Murphey, Richmond County Technical Career Magnet, Richmond Hill and Spirit Creek. The high schools include Academy of Richmond County, Butler, Cross Creek, A.R. Johnson and Laney.

The school district is working to get teachers certified/endorsed for teaching computer science, which can be done through GACE, RESA or several college programs. Barnes said they hope to be able to offer a stipend to teachers who take the course, and for those who complete the GACE, there is an opportunity for reimbursement.

No recommended changes were pitched for elementary schools, but Barnes said they are interested in bringing back their itinerant teachers to offer computer science education in the future. They are also planning to meet with the elementary schools to gauge their interests in the subject.

Board member Patsy Scott said she is in support of the teacher stipend, but is annoyed that state officials have created more mandatory work for the school district without sufficient help to do so.

“If they want us to do this, we need to have it financed through them,” Scott said.

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Board member Venus Cain agreed with Scott.

“When we continue to put demands on the system, we’re taking from funding from what we could be using in the classroom to achieve these goals they come up with every year,” Cain said.

Barnes will present these recommendations to the board for a vote during the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Augusta school board discusses computer science education, SB 108

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